One of the most debated subjects in Ecclesiastes studies is the purpose of its epilogue (ch. 12:9–14). Many scholars view the epilogue as a later addition that attempts to tone down the unorthodox message of the book. They tend to overlook the content of the concluding passage and in turn miss out on its significance.
The End of the Matter: Understanding the Epilogue of Ecclesiastes brings a fresh perspective to the epilogue of Ecclesiastes. In it, author Miles Custis puts forth the theory that Ecclesiastes was written by one man who used two distinct voices: the voice of Qohelet and the voice of the epilogist. In regards to this theory, Custis examines the criticism surrounding the relationship between the body of Ecclesiastes and the epilogue. He shows how the message of the epilogue fits with the body of Ecclesiastes, and as a result, brings readers a deeper understanding of the meaning, structure, and purpose of Ecclesiastes’ last verses.
“The nuance of הבל that best describes most the situations that Qohelet judges הבל is that of ‘absurd’ or ‘senseless.’” (Page 15)
“If human wisdom is limited and humanity is not able to fully understand God’s works (3:14; 8:17), then the proper response is one of piety and obedience. This is the message of the epilogue and the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole.” (Page 109)
“Because life is full of contradictions and human wisdom is limited, the author of Ecclesiastes concludes that instead of relying on wisdom, the proper response to life under the sun is piety and obedience.” (Page 7)
“Qohelet’s message is that life is full of contradictions and absurdities. Wisdom, while good, is ultimately unprofitable since all people, fool and wise alike, share the same fate (2:14–16). It is also limited since no one is able to fully understand the work of God (8:16–17). In light of this, Qohelet advocates fearing God (3:14; 5:6).” (Page 7)
“ It is unending because the sages cannot achieve a satisfactory solution to the world.” (Page 79)
Miles Custis holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Trinity Western University where he specialized in Wisdom literature. He has contributed to Bible Study Magazine and Lexham Bible Dictionary. He currently works as a Contributing Editor for Logos Bible Software.